An 81-mm mortar shell exits a mortar tube on Townshend Island, Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia, as part of Exercise Talisman Saber 17, July 20, 2017. Marines with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, refined their targeting skills during a combined joint live-fire exercise involving U.S. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and service members with the Australian Defence Forces. BLT 3/5, the Ground Combat Element for the 31st MEU, is exploring state-of-the-art concepts and technologies as the dedicated force for Sea Dragon 2025, a Marine Corps initiative to prepare for future battles. The 31st MEU is taking part in Talisman Saber 17 while deployed on a regularly-scheduled patrol of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Talisman Saber is a biennial exercise designed to improve the interoperability between Australian and U.S. forces. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. T. T. Parish/Released)
An 81-mm mortar shell exits a mortar tube on Townshend Island, Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia, as part of Exercise Talisman Saber 17, July 20, 2017. Marines with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, refined their targeting skills during a combined joint live-fire exercise involving U.S. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and service members with the Australian Defence Forces. BLT 3/5, the Ground Combat Element for the 31st MEU, is exploring state-of-the-art concepts and technologies as the dedicated force for Sea Dragon 2025, a Marine Corps initiative to prepare for future battles. The 31st MEU is taking part in Talisman Saber 17 while deployed on a regularly-scheduled patrol of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Talisman Saber is a biennial exercise designed to improve the interoperability between Australian and U.S. forces. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. T. T. Parish/Released) Staff Sgt. T. T. Parish

Intense final assault against enemy at Shoalwater Bay

The United States (US) and Australian Defence Forces have proven their interoperability in a major land warfare scenario in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area Thursday night with an intense final assault on the 'enemy'. 

More than 33,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines from Australia, the US, New Zealand, Japan and Canada have spent the past three weeks involved in the realistic, scenario-based military exercise Talisman Saber 2017 (TS17). The exercise took place in Central Queensland, with elements also supporting the mission in Brisbane, Townsville and Hawaii.

Over 500 US Marines and Australian soldiers landed at Freshwater Bay on July 19 during amphibious assault landings ahead of the final assault.

Following several weeks of lead in training TS17 ramped up last week when a 33-strong fleet of multi-national warships and submarines, including HMAS Canberra-an expeditionary strike group led by the USS Bonhomme Richard, and a carrier strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan, moved into position off the coast of Rockhampton. 

A multitude of landing craft and vertical airlift launched from amphibious ships of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group to deliver forces from Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment. The landing was conducted as part of bilateral training between the forces to strengthen interoperability and readiness to respond to a contingency.

The land warfare phase was also supported by more than 200 military aircraft from the Australian, US and New Zealand Air Forces, Army, Navy and Marine Corps units, including the Australian Army's 5th Aviation Regiment and the US Army's 25th Combat Aviation Squadron. 

"Exercise Talisman Saber gives Australian and US forces the opportunity for familiarization of each other's processes and equipment that are essential building blocks of our long standing alliance,” the Exercise Director for Exercise Talisman Saber 17 Australian Army Brigadier Mick Ryan said.

"Embarking together on ships in blue water and sharing air and landing craft to go ashore increases our interoperability and enhances our readiness to respond to contingencies throughout the Pacific,” Commanding Officer of the 31st MEU U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Tye R. Wallace said.

"Expeditionary U.S. forces value the opportunity to integrate our continually evolving concepts and capabilities with our Australian partners. It is exercises like Talisman Saber that enable the 31st MEU to remain forward, flexible, and ready.”

Exercise Talisman Saber 17 is the largest combined military exercise undertaken in Australia. Now in its seventh iteration, the biennial exercise is the principal Australian and U.S. military training activity which focuses on the planning and conduct of mid-intensity "high end” warfighting in the air, land and maritime domains.

The Australian Defence Force's Deputy Chief of Joint Operations, Major General Greg Bilton, said the participating nations demonstrated the ability to expertly land thousands of troops ashore by sea and air to support a complex ground warfare mission. 

"For Australia, this was a unique opportunity to lead an amphibious ready group in landing a significant number of troops from the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment ashore to advance on the enemy,” Major General Bilton said. 

While soldiers from partner nations arrived in the battlefield by rotary wing transport as well as airborne insertion from six C-17 Globemasters straight out of Alaska. 

"These waves of amphibious forces landing along a very large geographic area along the north-east Australian coastline proved the advantage to be gained from having a well-trained and capable amphibious capability,” he said.   

The amphibious forces then proceeded inland to reinforce land forces from the Australian Army's 3rd Brigade, the United State's Army's 25th Infantry Division, a company from the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force's 1st Airborne Brigade, a company from the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the New Zealand Army's Combat Team Black. 

Brigadier Ryan said the land warfare phase proved the effectiveness of joint US and Australian military operations. 

"The integration of Australian and US forces on this exercise underpins our capacity to prepare for future operations and provides a ready and relevant deployable force for the Australian government,” Brigadier Ryan said. 

"We are immensely proud to have achieved an exercise of this size in what has proven to be both challenging and rewarding.” 

Deputy Division Commander of the United States' 25th Infantry Division, Brigadier General Peter Andrysiak, said the exercise not only improved the ability of the two militaries to work together, it demonstrated the strength of the alliance between the two countries. 

"Talisman Saber has been an excellent training opportunity for all the United States forces here to work with their Australian counterparts. Our forces have learned a lot from our Australian allies and we've significantly improved our interoperability - our ability for our two militaries to mesh together as one effective team,” Brigadier General Andrysiak said. 

"Every time we can train side by side with one of our most important allies, we not only get better, we reinforce our shared vision of maintaining peace and stability in the region,” he said. 

Troops in the field will leave the Shoalwater Bay Training Area and return to their home locations, through the main exercise staging base in Rockhampton.

Large convoys of military vehicles will begin to transit from Rockhampton to bases in Townsville and Brisbane over the coming weeks and residents between Richmond, NSW and Townsville may experience more aircraft noise than usual, as military aircraft redeploy to various RAAF bases in Eastern Australia. 

Smaller scale Command Post exercises will continue for several more weeks in Brisbane and Hawaii as Senior Military Leaders workshop the lessons learned in the field exercises and apply them to their military planning strategies. 

The Australian Defence Force and its international partners are grateful to the people of Rockhampton and Shoalwater Bay for their understanding and continued support of Exercise Talisman Saber 2017.



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